Thursday, June 27, 2019

What Should Christians Believe about the Bible?

Christians look to the Bible for answers and guidance. But how do we know we can trust the Bible? What should we believe about the Bible itself?

1. The Bible is the Inspired Word of God

2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is God-breathed

2 Peter 1:20: Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things.

There are two primary understandings of the inspiration of Scripture:
  • God dictated the exact words that the people wrote.
  • He inspired their spirit and allowed them to come up with their own words.

I think that both are true in certain cases. In the Old Testament, we see plenty of examples of God telling a prophet exactly what to say. We don’t see that very much in the New Testament, however, and one reason might be that Christians have the Holy Spirit living inside them, so the writers didn’t need God’s voice telling them what to write. They felt the Holy Spirit communicating with their spirits instead.

In either case, Christians need to believe that the message came from God, not the human writer only.

2. The Bible is Inerrant

Christians often describe the Bible as infallible. The most common definition of this term is that there are no errors in Scripture regarding Christian faith and practice. In other words, the Bible tells us exactly what we need to know to be saved and live a Christian life.

Some Christians hold that there may be errors in other matters, though, such as historical or scientific accuracy. This description of Scripture allows believers to accept the existence of God and His commandments while also accepting the theories of the Big Bang, Evolution, etc.

A stronger term than infallible, describing the Bible as inerrant implies that there are no errors regarding any matter. If the Bible says God created the world in six days, He created the world in six days.

The difference here is a big one, and its implications have to do with whether Scripture can be trusted or not. If the Bible could be wrong about one thing, why couldn’t it be wrong about something else? If it’s inspired, why would God allow someone to write something that isn’t absolutely true?

The only way we can trust Scripture regarding matters of the faith is to trust it regarding everything else.

But this idea of infallibility also seeks to separate spiritual matters from secular issues. Is the account of Genesis 1-3 a matter of faith or is it simply a scientific concern that the Bible could be wrong about? Those first three chapters carry so many implications for the rest of the Bible that they have to be matters of faith. Otherwise, the rest of Scripture is built on a falsehood. The death and resurrection of Christ holds no meaning if death didn’t come because of humanity’s sin in the garden.

So, Christians need to believe that the Bible is true in all aspects. Otherwise, it’s simply another myth.

3. The Bible is Accurate in its Transcriptions and Translations

Some Christians will admit that they believe that the Scriptures were inspired by God and that they were either infallible or inerrant when the writer first produced them but that errors may have cropped up in the process of copying the texts so many times throughout history and translating them into their non-native languages.

This is a valid concern, but it’s simply not true. The Bible has been the most copied, most translated book in all of history. And what we find is that when we compare the oldest documents with what we read today, it is very, very close. It’s so close to the point that the meaning has not changed.

This shows how much respect people have had for the Bible throughout the centuries and how much accountability there’s been between groups of Christians. One person or church or scholarly association can’t change anything without everyone else calling them out.

That’s why we can believe that what we’re reading is truly God’s message to us.

4. The Bible is Authoritative for Us

Believers differ on how the Bible was inspired and whether it’s inerrant in all it says or not. They differ on how to interpret the Scriptures at many points. But one thing every Christian has to believe is that the Bible has authority.

That’s not to say that the Bible is our only authority. A watchword of the Reformation was Sola Scriptura, Scripture alone, but the Bible itself never claims to be the only authority for Christians. Catholics very readily remind us that tradition passed down from the Apostles and Church Fathers is authoritative. Likewise, churches who recite the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed acknowledge the historic Church councils as having authority. John Wesley said that logic was authoritative. And any church that has a structured government gives some level of authority to its officials.

No matter what other authorities a church acknowledges, however, it must also adhere to the Scriptures. People who disregard the Bible as having no bearing for us today have abandoned the roots of the religion, opting to follow whatever they think is right, in effect making up their own belief system. They’re not only on a different page than the rest of us, but they’re not even reading the same book!

As Jesus said in John 10:35, “Scripture cannot be set aside.”

One objection to following Scripture is the belief that what was written was only valid for the context of the writer. The argument goes that since we are living in a different time with differences in our society, the Scriptures are no longer valid for us in certain respects.

This objection has some validity because Scripture itself takes away our need to follow certain Old Testament practices with the introduction of the New Covenant. We don’t need to sacrifice animals anymore, for example, even though God commanded the people to do it at one point in Israel’s history.

The point to note here, however, is that Scripture itself tells us what is no longer valid. People didn’t decide on their own to stop following the laws of the Old Covenant. No Scripture has told us to stop listening to Paul or Peter or Christ’s words, so they’re still valid for us. They will be in effect at least until Christ comes again and gives us further instructions.

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